Part 20 out of 29
might have been worthwhile better and cheaper. Videotex planners badly
overestimated both the appeal of getting information from a computer
and the cost of local intelligence at the user's end. Like the
gorilla arm effect, this has been a cautionary tale to hackers
ever since. See also vannevar.
Node:virgin, Next:virtual, Previous:videotex,
Up:= V =
Unused; pristine; in a known initial state. "Let's bring up a virgin
system and see if it crashes again." (Esp. useful after contracting a
virus through SEX.) Also, by extension, buffers and the
like within a program that have not yet been used.
Node:virtual, Next:virtual beer, Previous:virgin,
Up:= V =
[via the technical term `virtual memory', prob. from the term `virtual
image' in optics] 1. Common alternative to logical; often used
to refer to the artificial objects (like addressable virtual memory
larger than physical memory) simulated by a computer system as a
convenient way to manage access to shared resources. 2. Simulated;
performing the functions of something that isn't really there. An
imaginative child's doll may be a virtual playmate. Oppose
Node:virtual beer, Next:virtual Friday,
Previous:virtual, Up:= V =
virtual beer n.
Praise or thanks. Used universally in the Linux community. Originally
this term signified cash, after a famous incident in which some some
Britishers who wanted to buy Linus a beer and sent him money to
Finland to do so.
Node:virtual Friday, Next:virtual reality,
Previous:virtual beer, Up:= V =
virtual Friday n.
(also `logical Friday') The last day before an extended weekend, if
that day is not a `real' Friday. For example, the U.S. holiday
Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday. The next day is often also a
holiday or taken as an extra day off, in which case Wednesday of that
week is a virtual Friday (and Thursday is a virtual Saturday, as is
Friday). There are also `virtual Mondays' that are actually Tuesdays,
after the three-day weekends associated with many national holidays in
Node:virtual reality, Next:virtual shredder,
Previous:virtual Friday, Up:= V =
virtual reality n.
1. Computer simulations that use 3-D graphics and devices such as the
Dataglove to allow the user to interact with the simulation. See
cyberspace. 2. A form of network interaction incorporating
aspects of role-playing games, interactive theater, improvisational
comedy, and `true confessions' magazines. In a virtual reality forum
(such as Usenet's alt.callahans newsgroup or the MUD
experiments on Internet), interaction between the participants is
written like a shared novel complete with scenery, `foreground
characters' that may be personae utterly unlike the people who write
them, and common `background characters' manipulable by all parties.
The one iron law is that you may not write irreversible changes to a
character without the consent of the person who `owns' it. Otherwise
anything goes. See bamf, cyberspace,
Node:virtual shredder, Next:virus, Previous:virtual
reality, Up:= V =
virtual shredder n.
The jargonic equivalent of the bit bucket at shops using IBM's
VM/CMS operating system. VM/CMS officially supports a whole bestiary
of virtual card readers, virtual printers, and other phantom devices;
these are used to supply some of the same capabilities Unix gets from
pipes and I/O redirection.
Node:virus, Next:visionary, Previous:virtual shredder,
Up:= V =
[from the obvious analogy with biological viruses, via SF] A cracker
program that searches out other programs and `infects' them by
embedding a copy of itself in them, so that they become Trojan
horses. When these programs are executed, the embedded virus is
executed too, thus propagating the `infection'. This normally happens
invisibly to the user. Unlike a worm, a virus cannot infect
other computers without assistance. It is propagated by vectors such
as humans trading programs with their friends (see SEX). The
virus may do nothing but propagate itself and then allow the program
to run normally. Usually, however, after propagating silently for a
while, it starts doing things like writing cute messages on the
terminal or playing strange tricks with the display (some viruses
include nice display hacks). Many nasty viruses, written by
particularly perversely minded crackers, do irreversible
damage, like nuking all the user's files.
In the 1990s, viruses became a serious problem, especially among
Windows users; the lack of security on these machines enables viruses
to spread easily, even infecting the operating system (Unix machines,
by contrast, are immune to such attacks). The production of special
anti-virus software has become an industry, and a number of
exaggerated media reports have caused outbreaks of near hysteria among
users; many lusers tend to blame everything that doesn't work
as they had expected on virus attacks. Accordingly, this sense of
`virus' has passed not only into techspeak but into also popular usage
(where it is often incorrectly used to denote a worm or even a
Trojan horse). See phage; compare back door; see
also Unix conspiracy.
Node:visionary, Next:VMS, Previous:virus, Up:= V
1. One who hacks vision, in the sense of an Artificial Intelligence
researcher working on the problem of getting computers to `see' things
using TV cameras. (There isn't any problem in sending information from
a TV camera to a computer. The problem is, how can the computer be
programmed to make use of the camera information? See SMOP,
AI-complete.) 2. [IBM] One who reads the outside literature. At
IBM, apparently, such a penchant is viewed with awe and wonder.
Node:VMS, Next:voice, Previous:visionary, Up:= V
VMS /V-M-S/ n.
DEC's proprietary operating system for its VAX minicomputer;
one of the seven or so environments that loom largest in hacker
folklore. Many Unix fans generously concede that VMS would probably be
the hacker's favorite commercial OS if Unix didn't exist; though true,
this makes VMS fans furious. One major hacker gripe with VMS concerns
its slowness -- thus the following limerick:
There once was a system called VMS
Of cycles by no means abstemious.
It's chock-full of hacks
And runs on a VAX
And makes my poor stomach all squeamious.
--- The Great Quux
See also VAX, TOPS-10, TOPS-20, Unix,
Node:voice, Next:voice-net, Previous:VMS, Up:= V
To phone someone, as opposed to emailing them or connecting in
talk mode. "I'm busy now; I'll voice you later."
Node:voice-net, Next:voodoo programming, Previous:voice,
Up:= V =
Hackish way of referring to the telephone system, analogizing it to a
digital network. Usenet sig blocks not uncommonly include the
sender's phone next to a "Voice:" or "Voice-Net:" header; common
variants of this are "Voicenet" and "V-Net". Compare paper-net,
Node:voodoo programming, Next:VR, Previous:voice-net,
Up:= V =
voodoo programming n.
[from George Bush's "voodoo economics"] 1. The use by guess or
cookbook of an obscure or hairy system, feature, or
algorithm that one does not truly understand. The implication is that
the technique may not work, and if it doesn't, one will never know
why. Almost synonymous with black magic, except that black
magic typically isn't documented and nobody understands it. Compare
magic, deep magic, heavy wizardry, rain
dance, cargo cult programming, wave a dead chicken. 2.
Things programmers do that they know shouldn't work but they try
anyway, and which sometimes actually work, such as recompiling
Node:VR, Next:Vulcan nerve pinch, Previous:voodoo
programming, Up:= V =
VR // [MUD] n.
On-line abbrev for virtual reality, as opposed to RL.
Node:Vulcan nerve pinch, Next:vulture capitalist,
Previous:VR, Up:= V =
Vulcan nerve pinch n.
[from the old "Star Trek" TV series via Commodore Amiga hackers] The
keyboard combination that forces a soft-boot or jump to ROM monitor
(on machines that support such a feature). On PC clones this is
Ctrl-Alt-Del; on Suns, L1-A; on Macintoshes, it is
salute. Compare quadruple bucky.
Node:vulture capitalist, Next:W2K bug, Previous:Vulcan
nerve pinch, Up:= V =
vulture capitalist n.
Pejorative hackerism for `venture capitalist', deriving from the
common practice of pushing contracts that deprive inventors of control
over their own innovations and most of the money they ought to have
made from them.
Node:= W =, Next:= X =, Previous:= V =, Up:The
= W =
* W2K bug:
* walk off the end of:
* walking drives:
* wall follower:
* wall time:
* wall wart:
* war dialer:
* warez d00dz:
* warez kiddies:
* warm boot:
* washing machine:
* washing software:
* water MIPS:
* wave a dead chicken:
* web pointer:
* web toaster:
* web ring:
* What's a spline?:
* wheel bit:
* wheel of reincarnation:
* wheel wars:
* White Book:
* WIMP environment:
* win big:
* win win:
* window shopping:
* winged comments:
* wish list:
* within delta of:
* within epsilon of:
* Wizard Book:
* wizard hat:
* wizard mode:
* womb box:
* working as designed:
* wound around the axle:
* wrap around:
* write-only code:
* write-only language:
* write-only memory:
* Wrong Thing:
* wugga wugga:
Node:W2K bug, Next:wabbit, Previous:vulture capitalist,
Up:= W =
[from `Y2K bug' for the Year 2000 problem] The upcoming deployment of
Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system, which hackers generally
expect will be among the worst train wrecks in the history of software
engineering. Such is the power of Microsoft marketing, however, that
it is also expected this will not become obvious until it has incurred
hundreds of millions of dollars in downtime and lost opportunity
Node:wabbit, Next:WAITS, Previous:W2K bug, Up:= W
wabbit /wab'it/ n.
[almost certainly from Elmer Fudd's immortal line "You wascawwy
wabbit!"] 1. A legendary early hack reported on a System/360 at RPI
and elsewhere around 1978; this may have descended (if only by
inspiration) from a hack called RABBITS reported from 1969 on a
Burroughs 5500 at the University of Washington Computer Center. The
program would make two copies of itself every time it was run,
eventually crashing the system. 2. By extension, any hack that
includes infinite self-replication but is not a virus or
worm. See fork bomb and rabbit job, see also
Node:WAITS, Next:waldo, Previous:wabbit, Up:= W =
WAITS /wayts/ n.
The mutant cousin of TOPS-10 used on a handful of systems at
SAIL up to 1990. There was never an `official' expansion of
WAITS (the name itself having been arrived at by a rather sideways
process), but it was frequently glossed as `West-coast Alternative to
ITS'. Though WAITS was less visible than ITS, there was frequent
exchange of people and ideas between the two communities, and
innovations pioneered at WAITS exerted enormous indirect influence.
The early screen modes of EMACS, for example, were directly
inspired by WAITS's `E' editor -- one of a family of editors that were
the first to do `real-time editing', in which the editing commands
were invisible and where one typed text at the point of
insertion/overwriting. The modern style of multi-region windowing is
said to have originated there, and WAITS alumni at XEROX PARC and
elsewhere played major roles in the developments that led to the XEROX
Star, the Macintosh, and the Sun workstations. Also invented there
were bucky bits -- thus, the ALT key on every IBM PC is a WAITS
legacy. One WAITS feature very notable in pre-Web days was a news-wire
interface that allowed WAITS hackers to read, store, and filter AP and
UPI dispatches from their terminals; the system also featured a
still-unusual level of support for what is now called `multimedia'
computing, allowing analog audio and video signals to be switched to
Node:waldo, Next:walk, Previous:WAITS, Up:= W =
waldo /wol'doh/ n.
[From Robert A. Heinlein's story "Waldo"] 1. A mechanical agent, such
as a gripper arm, controlled by a human limb. When these were
developed for the nuclear industry in the mid-1940s they were named
after the invention described by Heinlein in the story, which he wrote
in 1942. Now known by the more generic term `telefactoring', this
technology is of intense interest to NASA for tasks like space station
maintenance. 2. At Harvard (particularly by Tom Cheatham and
students), this is used instead of foobar as a metasyntactic
variable and general nonsense word. See foo, bar,
Node:walk, Next:walk off the end of, Previous:waldo,
Up:= W =
Traversal of a data structure, especially an array or linked-list data
structure in core. See also codewalker, silly
Node:walk off the end of, Next:walking drives,
Previous:walk, Up:= W =
walk off the end of vt.
To run past the end of an array, list, or medium after stepping
through it -- a good way to land in trouble. Often the result of an
off-by-one error. Compare clobber, roach,
smash the stack.
Node:walking drives, Next:wall, Previous:walk off the
end of, Up:= W =
walking drives n.
An occasional failure mode of magnetic-disk drives back in the days
when they were huge, clunky washing machines. Those old
dinosaur parts carried terrific angular momentum; the
combination of a misaligned spindle or worn bearings and stick-slip
interactions with the floor could cause them to `walk' across a room,
lurching alternate corners forward a couple of millimeters at a time.
There is a legend about a drive that walked over to the only door to
the computer room and jammed it shut; the staff had to cut a hole in
the wall in order to get at it! Walking could also be induced by
certain patterns of drive access (a fast seek across the whole width
of the disk, followed by a slow seek in the other direction). Some
bands of old-time hackers figured out how to induce disk-accessing
patterns that would do this to particular drive models and held
Node:wall, Next:wall follower, Previous:walking drives,
Up:= W =
[WPI] 1. An indication of confusion, usually spoken with a quizzical
tone: "Wall??" 2. A request for further explication. Compare
octal forty. 3. [Unix, from `write all'] v. To send a message
to everyone currently logged in, esp. with the wall(8) utility.
It is said that sense 1 came from the idiom `like talking to a blank
wall'. It was originally used in situations where, after you had
carefully answered a question, the questioner stared at you blankly,
clearly having understood nothing that was explained. You would then
throw out a "Hello, wall?" to elicit some sort of response from the
questioner. Later, confused questioners began voicing "Wall?"
Node:wall follower, Next:wall time, Previous:wall,
Up:= W =
wall follower n.
A person or algorithm that compensates for lack of sophistication or
native stupidity by efficiently following some simple procedure shown
to have been effective in the past. Used of an algorithm, this is not
necessarily pejorative; it recalls `Harvey Wallbanger', the winning
robot in an early AI contest (named, of course, after the cocktail).
Harvey successfully solved mazes by keeping a `finger' on one wall and
running till it came out the other end. This was inelegant, but it was
mathematically guaranteed to work on simply-connected mazes -- and, in
fact, Harvey outperformed more sophisticated robots that tried to
`learn' each maze by building an internal representation of it. Used
of humans, the term is pejorative and implies an uncreative,
bureaucratic, by-the-book mentality. See also code grinder;
Node:wall time, Next:wall wart, Previous:wall follower,
Up:= W =
wall time n.
(also `wall clock time') 1. `Real world' time (what the clock on the
wall shows), as opposed to the system clock's idea of time. 2. The
real running time of a program, as opposed to the number of
ticks required to execute it (on a timesharing system these
always differ, as no one program gets all the ticks, and on
multiprocessor systems with good thread support one may get more
processor time than real time).
Node:wall wart, Next:wallpaper, Previous:wall time,
Up:= W =
wall wart n.
A small power-supply brick with integral male plug, designed to plug
directly into a wall outlet; called a `wart' because when installed on
a power strip it tends to block up at least one more socket than it
uses.. These are frequently associated with modems and other small
electronic devices which would become unacceptably bulky or hot if
they had power supplies on board (there are other reasons as well
having to do with the cost of UL certification).
Node:wallpaper, Next:wango, Previous:wall wart,
Up:= W =
1. A file containing a listing (e.g., assembly listing) or a
transcript, esp. a file containing a transcript of all or part of a
login session. (The idea was that the paper for such listings was
essentially good only for wallpaper, as evidenced at Stanford, where
it was used to cover windows.) Now rare, esp. since other systems have
developed other terms for it (e.g., PHOTO on TWENEX). However, the
Unix world doesn't have an equivalent term, so perhaps
wallpaper will take hold there. The term probably originated on
ITS, where the commands to begin and end transcript files were :WALBEG
and :WALEND, with default file WALL PAPER (the space was a path
delimiter). 2. The background pattern used on graphical workstations
(this is techspeak under the `Windows' graphical user interface to
MS-DOS). 3. `wallpaper file' n. The file that contains the wallpaper
information before it is actually printed on paper. (Even if you don't
intend ever to produce a real paper copy of the file, it is still
called a wallpaper file.)
Node:wango, Next:wank, Previous:wallpaper, Up:= W
wango /wang'goh/ n.
Random bit-level grovelling going on in a system during some
unspecified operation. Often used in combination with mumble.
For example: "You start with the `.o' file, run it through this
postprocessor that does mumble-wango -- and it comes out a snazzy
Node:wank, Next:wannabee, Previous:wango, Up:= W
wank /wangk/ n.,v.,adj.
[Columbia University: prob. by mutation from Commonwealth slang v.
`wank', to masturbate] Used much as hack is elsewhere, as a
noun denoting a clever technique or person or the result of such
cleverness. May describe (negatively) the act of hacking for hacking's
sake ("Quit wanking, let's go get supper!") or (more positively) a
wizard. Adj. `wanky' describes something particularly clever (a
person, program, or algorithm). Conversations can also get wanky when
there are too many wanks involved. This excess wankiness is signalled
by an overload of the `wankometer' (compare bogometer). When
the wankometer overloads, the conversation's subject must be changed,
or all non-wanks will leave. Compare `neep-neeping' (under
neep-neep). Usage: U.S. only. In Britain and the Commonwealth
this word is extremely rude and is best avoided unless one intends to
give offense. Adjectival `wanky' is less offensive and simply means
`stupid' or `broken' (this is mainstream in Great Britain).
Node:wannabee, Next:war dialer, Previous:wank,
Up:= W =
wannabee /won'*-bee/ n.
(also, more plausibly, spelled `wannabe') [from a term recently used
to describe Madonna fans who dress, talk, and act like their idol;
prob. originally from biker slang] A would-be hacker. The
connotations of this term differ sharply depending on the age and
exposure of the subject. Used of a person who is in or might be
entering larval stage, it is semi-approving; such wannabees can
be annoying but most hackers remember that they, too, were once such
creatures. When used of any professional programmer, CS academic,
writer, or suit, it is derogatory, implying that said person is
trying to cuddle up to the hacker mystique but doesn't, fundamentally,
have a prayer of understanding what it is all about. Overuse of terms
from this lexicon is often an indication of the wannabee
nature. Compare newbie.
Historical note: The wannabee phenomenon has a slightly different
flavor now (1993) than it did ten or fifteen years ago. When the
people who are now hackerdom's tribal elders were in larval
stage, the process of becoming a hacker was largely unconscious and
unaffected by models known in popular culture -- communities formed
spontaneously around people who, as individuals, felt irresistibly
drawn to do hackerly things, and what wannabees experienced was a
fairly pure, skill-focused desire to become similarly wizardly. Those
days of innocence are gone forever; society's adaptation to the advent
of the microcomputer after 1980 included the elevation of the hacker
as a new kind of folk hero, and the result is that some people
semi-consciously set out to be hackers and borrow hackish prestige by
fitting the popular image of hackers. Fortunately, to do this really
well, one has to actually become a wizard. Nevertheless, old-time
hackers tend to share a poorly articulated disquiet about the change;
among other things, it gives them mixed feelings about the effects of
public compendia of lore like this one.
Node:war dialer, Next:-ware, Previous:wannabee,
Up:= W =
war dialer n.
A cracking tool, a program that calls a given list or range of phone
numbers and records those which answer with handshake tones (and so
might be entry points to computer or telecommunications systems). Some
of these programs have become quite sophisticated, and can now detect
modem, fax, or PBX tones and log each one separately. The war dialer
is one of the most important tools in the phreaker's kit. These
programs evolved from early demon dialers.
Node:-ware, Next:warez, Previous:war dialer, Up:=
[from `software'] Commonly used to form jargon terms for classes of
software. For examples, see annoyware, careware,
crippleware, crudware, freeware,
fritterware, guiltware, liveware,
meatware, payware, psychedelicware,
shareware, shelfware, vaporware, wetware.
Node:warez, Next:warez d00dz, Previous:-ware,
Up:= W =
warez /weirz/ n.
Widely used in cracker subcultures to denote cracked version of
commercial software, that is versions from which copy-protection has
been stripped. Hackers recognize this term but don't use it
themselves. See warez d00dz, courier, leech,
Node:warez d00dz, Next:warez kiddies, Previous:warez,
Up:= W =
warez d00dz /weirz doodz/ n.
A substantial subculture of crackers refer to themselves as
`warez d00dz'; there is evidently some connection with B1FF
here. As `Ozone Pilot', one former warez d00d, wrote:
Warez d00dz get illegal copies of copyrighted software. If it has
copy protection on it, they break the protection so the software
can be copied. Then they distribute it around the world via several
gateways. Warez d00dz form badass group names like RAZOR and the
like. They put up boards that distribute the latest ware, or pirate
program. The whole point of the Warez sub-culture is to get the
pirate program released and distributed before any other group. I
know, I know. But don't ask, and it won't hurt as much. This is how
they prove their poweress [sic]. It gives them the right to say, "I
released King's Quest IVXIX before you so obviously my testicles
are larger." Again don't ask...
The studly thing to do if one is a warez d00d, it appears, is emit
`0-day warez', that is copies of commercial software copied and
cracked on the same day as its retail release. Warez d00ds also hoard
software in a big way, collecting untold megabytes of arcade-style
games, pornographic JPGs, and applications they'll never use onto
their hard disks. As Ozone Pilot acutely observes:
[BELONG] is the only word you will need to know. Warez d00dz want
to belong. They have been shunned by everyone, and thus turn to
cyberspace for acceptance. That is why they always start groups
like TGW, FLT, USA and the like. Structure makes them happy. [...]
Warez d00dz will never have a handle like "Pink Daisy" because
warez d00dz are insecure. Only someone who is very secure with a
good dose of self-esteem can stand up to the cries of fag and
girlie-man. More likely you will find warez d00dz with handles
like: Doctor Death, Deranged Lunatic, Hellraiser, Mad Prince,
Dreamdevil, The Unknown, Renegade Chemist, Terminator, and Twin
Turbo. They like to sound badass when they can hide behind their
terminals. More likely, if you were given a sample of 100 people,
the person whose handle is Hellraiser is the last person you'd
associate with the name.
The contrast with Internet hackers is stark and instructive. See
cracker, wannabee, handle, elite,
courier, leech; compare weenie, spod.
Node:warez kiddies, Next:warlording, Previous:warez
d00dz, Up:= W =
warez kiddies n.
Even more derogatory way of referring to warez d00dz; refers to
the fact that most warez d00dz are around the age of puberty. Compare
Node:warlording, Next:warm boot, Previous:warez kiddies,
Up:= W =
[from the Usenet group alt.fan.warlord] The act of excoriating a
bloated, ugly, or derivative sig block. Common grounds for
warlording include the presence of a signature rendered in a
BUAF, over-used or cliched sig quotes, ugly ASCII
art, or simply excessive size. The original `Warlord' was a
B1FF-like newbie c.1991 who featured in his sig a
particularly large and obnoxious ASCII graphic resembling the sword of
Conan the Barbarian in the 1981 John Milius movie; the group name
alt.fan.warlord was sarcasm, and the characteristic mode of warlording
is devastatingly sarcastic praise.
Node:warm boot, Next:wart, Previous:warlording,
Up:= W =
warm boot n.
Node:wart, Next:washing machine, Previous:warm boot,
Up:= W =
A small, crocky feature that sticks out of an otherwise
clean design. Something conspicuous for localized ugliness,
especially a special-case exception to a general rule. For example, in
some versions of csh(1), single quotes literalize every character
inside them except !. In ANSI C, the ?? syntax used for obtaining
ASCII characters in a foreign environment is a wart. See also
Node:washing machine, Next:washing software,
Previous:wart, Up:= W =
washing machine n.
1. Old-style 14-inch hard disks in floor-standing cabinets. So called
because of the size of the cabinet and the `top-loading' access to the
media packs -- and, of course, they were always set on `spin cycle'.
The washing-machine idiom transcends language barriers; it is even
used in Russian hacker jargon. See also walking drives. The
thick channel cables connecting these were called `bit hoses' (see
hose, sense 3). 2. [CMU] A machine used exclusively for
washing software. CMU has clusters of these.
Node:washing software, Next:water MIPS, Previous:washing
machine, Up:= W =
washing software n.
The process of recompiling a software distribution (used more often
when the recompilation is occuring from scratch) to pick up and merge
together all of the various changes that have been made to the source.
Node:water MIPS, Next:wave a dead chicken,
Previous:washing software, Up:= W =
water MIPS n.
(see MIPS, sense 2) Large, water-cooled machines of either
today's ECL-supercomputer flavor or yesterday's traditional
Node:wave a dead chicken, Next:weasel, Previous:water
MIPS, Up:= W =
wave a dead chicken v.
To perform a ritual in the direction of crashed software or hardware
that one believes to be futile but is nevertheless necessary so that
others are satisfied that an appropriate degree of effort has been
expended. "I'll wave a dead chicken over the source code, but I really
think we've run into an OS bug." Compare voodoo programming,
rain dance; see also casting the runes.
Node:weasel, Next:web pointer, Previous:wave a dead
chicken, Up:= W =
[Cambridge] A naive user, one who deliberately or accidentally does
things that are stupid or ill-advised. Roughly synonymous with
Node:web pointer, Next:web toaster, Previous:weasel,
Up:= W =
web pointer n.
A World Wide Web URL. See also hotlink, which has
slightly different connotations.
Node:web toaster, Next:webify, Previous:web pointer,
Up:= W =
web toaster n.
A small specialized computer, shipped with no monitor or keyboard or
any other external peripherals, pre-configured to be controlled
through an Ethernet port and function as a WWW server. Products of
this kind (for example the Cobalt Qube) are often about the size of a
toaster. See toaster; compare video toaster.
Node:webify, Next:webmaster, Previous:web toaster,
Up:= W =
To put a piece of (possibly already existing) material on the WWW.
Frequently used for papers ("Why don't you webify all your
publications?") or for demos ("They webified their 6.866 final
project"). This term seems to have been (rather logically)
independently invented multiple times in the early 1990s.
Node:webmaster, Next:web ring, Previous:webify,
Up:= W =
[WWW: from postmaster] The person at a site providing World
Wide Web information who is responsible for maintaining the public
pages and keeping the Web server running and properly configured.
Node:web ring, Next:wedged, Previous:webmaster,
Up:= W =
web ring n.
Two or more web sites connected by prominent links between sites
sharing a common interest or theme. Usually such cliques have the
topology of a ring, in order to make it easy for visitors to navigate
through all of them.
Node:wedged, Next:wedgie, Previous:web ring, Up:=
1. To be stuck, incapable of proceeding without help. This is
different from having crashed. If the system has crashed, it has
become totally non-functioning. If the system is wedged, it is trying
to do something but cannot make progress; it may be capable of doing a
few things, but not be fully operational. For example, a process may
become wedged if it deadlocks with another (but not all
instances of wedging are deadlocks). See also gronk,
locked up, hosed, hung (wedged is more severe
than hung). 2. Often refers to humans suffering misconceptions.
"He's totally wedged -- he's convinced that he can levitate through
meditation." 3. [Unix] Specifically used to describe the state of a
TTY left in a losing state by abort of a screen-oriented program or
one that has messed with the line discipline in some obscure way.
There is some dispute over the origin of this term. It is usually
thought to derive from a common description of recto-cranial
inversion; however, it may actually have originated with older
`hot-press' printing technology in which physical type elements were
locked into type frames with wedges driven in by mallets. Once this
had been done, no changes in the typesetting for that page could be
Node:wedgie, Next:wedgitude, Previous:wedged,
Up:= W =
[Fairchild] A bug. Prob. related to wedged.
Node:wedgitude, Next:weeble, Previous:wedgie,
Up:= W =
wedgitude /wedj'i-t[y]ood/ n.
The quality or state of being wedged.
Node:weeble, Next:weeds, Previous:wedgitude, Up:=
weeble /weeb'l/ interj.
[Cambridge] Used to denote frustration, usually at amazing stupidity.
"I stuck the disk in upside down." "Weeble...." Compare gurfle.
Node:weeds, Next:weenie, Previous:weeble, Up:= W
1. Refers to development projects or algorithms that have no possible
relevance or practical application. Comes from `off in the weeds'.
Used in phrases like "lexical analysis for microcode is serious
weeds...." 2. At CDC/ETA before its demise, the phrase `go off in the
weeds' was equivalent to IBM's branch to Fishkill and
mainstream hackerdom's jump off into never-never land.
Node:weenie, Next:Weenix, Previous:weeds, Up:= W
1. [on BBSes] Any of a species of luser resembling a less amusing
version of B1FF that infests many BBS systems. The
typical weenie is a teenage boy with poor social skills travelling
under a grandiose handle derived from fantasy or heavy-metal
rock lyrics. Among sysops, `the weenie problem' refers to the
marginally literate and profanity-laden flamage weenies tend to
spew all over a newly-discovered BBS. Compare spod,
computer geek, terminal junkie, warez d00dz. 2.
[Among hackers] When used with a qualifier (for example, as in
Unix weenie, VMS weenie, IBM weenie) this can be either an
insult or a term of praise, depending on context, tone of voice, and
whether or not it is applied by a person who considers him or herself
to be the same sort of weenie. Implies that the weenie has put a major
investment of time, effort, and concentration into the area indicated;
whether this is good or bad depends on the hearer's judgment of how
the speaker feels about that area. See also bigot. 3. The
semicolon character, ; (ASCII 0111011).
Node:Weenix, Next:well-behaved, Previous:weenie,
Up:= W =
Weenix /wee'niks/ n.
1. [ITS] A derogatory term for Unix, derived from Unix
weenie. According to one noted ex-ITSer, it is "the operating system
preferred by Unix Weenies: typified by poor modularity, poor
reliability, hard file deletion, no file version numbers, case
sensitivity everywhere, and users who believe that these are all
advantages". (Some ITS fans behave as though they believe Unix stole a
future that rightfully belonged to them. See ITS, sense 2.) 2.
[Brown University] A Unix-like OS developed for tutorial purposes at
Brown University. See
independently of the ITS usage.
Node:well-behaved, Next:well-connected, Previous:Weenix,
Up:= W =
1. [primarily MS-DOS] Said of software conforming to system
interface guidelines and standards. Well-behaved software uses the
operating system to do chores such as keyboard input, allocating
memory and drawing graphics. Oppose ill-behaved. 2. Software
that does its job quietly and without counterintuitive effects. Esp.
said of software having an interface spec sufficiently simple and
well-defined that it can be used as a tool by other software.
See cat. 3. Said of an algorithm that doesn't crash or
blow up, even when given pathological input. Implies
that the stability of the algorithm is intrinsic, which makes this
somewhat different from bulletproof.
Previous:well-behaved, Up:= W =
Said of a computer installation, asserts that it has reliable email
links with the network and/or that it relays a large fraction of
available Usenet newsgroups. `Well-known' can be almost
synonymous, but also implies that the site's name is familiar to many
(due perhaps to an archive service or active Usenet users).
Node:wetware, Next:whack, Previous:well-connected,
Up:= W =
wetware /wet'weir/ n.
[prob. from the novels of Rudy Rucker] 1. The human nervous system, as
opposed to computer hardware or software. "Wetware has 7 plus or minus
2 temporary registers." 2. Human beings (programmers, operators,
administrators) attached to a computer system, as opposed to the
system's hardware or software. See liveware, meatware.
Node:whack, Next:whack-a-mole, Previous:wetware,
Up:= W =
According to arch-hacker James Gosling (designer of NeWS,
GOSMACS and Java), to "...modify a program with no idea
whatsoever how it works." (See whacker.) It is actually
possible to do this in nontrivial circumstances if the change is small
and well-defined and you are very good at glarking things from
context. As a trivial example, it is relatively easy to change all
stderr writes to stdout writes in a piece of C filter code which
remains otherwise mysterious.
Node:whack-a-mole, Next:whacker, Previous:whack,
Up:= W =
[from the carnival game which involves quickly and repeatedly hitting
the heads of mechanical moles with a mallet as they pop up from their
holes.] 1. The practice of repeatedly causing spammers'
throwaway accounts and drop boxes to be terminated. 2. After
sense 1 became established in the mid-1990s the term passed into more
generalized use, and now is commonly found in such combinations as
`whack-a-mole windows'; the obnoxious pop-ip advertisement windows
spawned in flocks when you surg to sites like Geocities or Tripod.
Node:whacker, Next:whales, Previous:whack-a-mole,
Up:= W =
[University of Maryland: from hacker] 1. A person, similar to a
hacker, who enjoys exploring the details of programmable
systems and how to stretch their capabilities. Whereas a hacker tends
to produce great hacks, a whacker only ends up whacking the system or
program in question. Whackers are often quite egotistical and eager to
claim wizard status, regardless of the views of their peers. 2.
A person who is good at programming quickly, though rather poorly and
Node:whales, Next:whalesong, Previous:whacker,
Up:= W =
See like kicking dead whales down the beach.
Node:whalesong, Next:What's a spline?, Previous:whales,
Up:= W =
The peculiar clicking and whooshing sounds made by a PEP modem such as
the Telebit Trailblazer as it tries to synchronize with another PEP
modem for their special high-speed mode. This sound isn't anything
like the normal two-tone handshake between conventional V-series
modems and is instantly recognizable to anyone who has heard it more
than once. It sounds, in fact, very much like whale songs. This noise
is also called "the moose call" or "moose tones".
Node:What's a spline?, Next:wheel, Previous:whalesong,
Up:= W =
What's a spline?
[XEROX PARC] This phrase expands to: "You have just used a term that
I've heard for a year and a half, and I feel I should know, but don't.
My curiosity has finally overcome my guilt." The PARC lexicon adds
"Moral: don't hesitate to ask questions, even if they seem obvious."
Node:wheel, Next:wheel bit, Previous:What's a spline?,
Up:= W =
[from slang `big wheel' for a powerful person] A person who has an
active wheel bit. "We need to find a wheel to unwedge the hung
tape drives." (See wedged, sense 1.) The traditional name of
security group zero in BSD (to which the major system-internal
users like root belong) is `wheel'. Some vendors have expanded
on this usage, modifying Unix so that only members of group `wheel'
can go root.
Node:wheel bit, Next:wheel of reincarnation,
Previous:wheel, Up:= W =
wheel bit n.
A privilege bit that allows the possessor to perform some restricted
operation on a timesharing system, such as read or write any file on
the system regardless of protections, change or look at any address in
the running monitor, crash or reload the system, and kill or create
jobs and user accounts. The term was invented on the TENEX operating
system, and carried over to TOPS-20, XEROX-IFS, and others. The state
of being in a privileged logon is sometimes called `wheel mode'. This
term entered the Unix culture from TWENEX in the mid-1980s and has
been gaining popularity there (esp. at university sites). See also
Node:wheel of reincarnation, Next:wheel wars,
Previous:wheel bit, Up:= W =
wheel of reincarnation
[coined in a paper by T. H. Myer and I.E. Sutherland "On the Design of
Display Processors", Comm. ACM, Vol. 11, no. 6, June 1968)] Term used
to refer to a well-known effect whereby function in a computing system
family is migrated out to special-purpose peripheral hardware for
speed, then the peripheral evolves toward more computing power as it
does its job, then somebody notices that it is inefficient to support
two asymmetrical processors in the architecture and folds the function
back into the main CPU, at which point the cycle begins again.
Several iterations of this cycle have been observed in
graphics-processor design, and at least one or two in communications
and floating-point processors. Also known as `the Wheel of Life', `the
Wheel of Samsara', and other variations of the basic Hindu/Buddhist
theological idea. See also blitter, bit bang.
Node:wheel wars, Next:White Book, Previous:wheel of
reincarnation, Up:= W =
wheel wars n.
[Stanford University] A period in larval stage during which
student hackers hassle each other by attempting to log each other out
of the system, delete each other's files, and otherwise wreak havoc,
usually at the expense of the lesser users.
Node:White Book, Next:whitelist, Previous:wheel wars,
Up:= W =
White Book n.
1. Syn. K&R. 2. Adobe's fourth book in the PostScript series,
describing the previously-secret format of Type 1 fonts; "Adobe Type 1
Font Format, version 1.1", (Addison-Wesley, 1990, ISBN 0-201-57044-0).
See also Red Book, Green Book, Blue Book.
Node:whitelist, Next:whizzy, Previous:White Book,
Up:= W =
The opposite of a blacklist. That is, instead of being an explicit
list of people who are banned, it's an explicit list of people who are
to be admitted. Hackers use this especially of lists of email
addresses that are explicitly enabled to get past strict anti-spam
Node:whizzy, Next:wibble, Previous:whitelist,
Up:= W =
(alt. `wizzy') [Sun] Describes a cuspy program; one that is
feature-rich and well presented.
Node:wibble, Next:WIBNI, Previous:whizzy, Up:= W
[UK, perh. originally from the first "Roger Irrelevant" strip in "VIZ"
comics, spread via "Your Sinclair magazine in the 1980s and early
1990s"] 1. n.,v. Commonly used to describe chatter, content-free
remarks or other essentially meaningless contributions to threads in
newsgroups. "Oh, rspence is wibbling again". 2. [UK IRC] An explicit
on-line no-op equivalent to humma. 3. One of the preferred
metasyntactic variables in the UK, forming a series with
wobble, wubble, and flob (attributed to the hilarious historical
comedy "Blackadder"). 4. A pronounciation of the letters "www", as
seen in URLs; i.e., www.foo.com may be pronounced "wibble dot
foo dot com" (compare dub dub dub).
The ancestral sense of this word is reported to have been "My brain is
packing it in now. I give up. Tilt! Tilt! Tilt!"
Node:WIBNI, Next:widget, Previous:wibble, Up:= W
WIBNI // n.
[Bell Labs: Wouldn't It Be Nice If] What most requirements documents
and specifications consist entirely of. Compare IWBNI.
Node:widget, Next:wiggles, Previous:WIBNI, Up:= W
1. A meta-thing. Used to stand for a real object in didactic examples
(especially database tutorials). Legend has it that the original
widgets were holders for buggy whips. "But suppose the parts list for
a widget has 52 entries...." 2. [poss. evoking `window gadget'] A user
interface object in X graphical user interfaces.
Node:wiggles, Next:WIMP environment, Previous:widget,
Up:= W =
[scientific computation] In solving partial differential equations by
finite difference and similar methods, wiggles are sawtooth
(up-down-up-down) oscillations at the shortest wavelength
representable on the grid. If an algorithm is unstable, this is often
the most unstable waveform, so it grows to dominate the solution.
Alternatively, stable (though inaccurate) wiggles can be generated
near a discontinuity by a Gibbs phenomenon.
Node:WIMP environment, Next:win, Previous:wiggles,
Up:= W =
WIMP environment n.
[acronym: `Window, Icon, Menu, Pointing device (or Pull-down menu)'] A
graphical-user-interface environment such as X or the Macintosh
interface, esp. as described by a hacker who prefers command-line
interfaces for their superior flexibility and extensibility. However,
it is also used without negative connotations; one must pay attention
to voice tone and other signals to interpret correctly. See
Node:win, Next:win big, Previous:WIMP environment,
Up:= W =
[MIT; now common everywhere] 1. vi. To succeed. A program wins if no
unexpected conditions arise, or (especially) if it sufficiently
robust to take exceptions in stride. 2. n. Success, or a
specific instance thereof. A pleasing outcome. "So it turned out I
could use a lexer generator instead of hand-coding my own
pattern recognizer. What a win!" Emphatic forms: `moby win', `super
win', `hyper-win' (often used interjectively as a reply). For some
reason `suitable win' is also common at MIT, usually in reference to a
satisfactory solution to a problem. Oppose lose; see also
big win, which isn't quite just an intensification of `win'.
Node:win big, Next:win win, Previous:win, Up:= W
win big vi.
To experience serendipity. "I went shopping and won big; there was a
2-for-1 sale." See big win.
Node:win win, Next:Winchester, Previous:win big,
Up:= W =
win win excl.
Expresses pleasure at a win.
Node:Winchester, Next:windoid, Previous:win win,
Up:= W =
Informal generic term for sealed-enclosure magnetic-disk drives in
which the read-write head planes over the disk surface on an air
cushion. There is a legend that the name arose because the original
1973 engineering prototype for what later became the IBM 3340 featured
two 30-megabyte volumes; 30-30 became `Winchester' when somebody
noticed the similarity to the common term for a famous Winchester
rifle (in the latter, the first 30 referred to caliber and the second
to the grain weight of the charge). (It is sometimes incorrectly
claimed that Winchester was the laboratory in which the technology was
Node:windoid, Next:window shopping, Previous:Winchester,
Up:= W =
In the Macintosh world, a style of window with much less adornment
(smaller or missing title bar, zoom box, etc, etc) than a standard
Node:window shopping, Next:Windoze, Previous:windoid,
Up:= W =
window shopping n.
[US Geological Survey] Among users of WIMP environments like
X or the Macintosh, extended experimentation with new window
colors, fonts, and icon shapes. This activity can take up hours of
what might otherwise have been productive working time. "I spent the
afternoon window shopping until I found the coolest shade of green for
my active window borders -- now they perfectly match my medium slate
blue background." Serious window shoppers will spend their days with
bitmap editors, creating new and different icons and background
patterns for all to see. Also: `window dressing', the act of applying
new fonts, colors, etc. See fritterware, compare
Node:Windoze, Next:winged comments, Previous:window
shopping, Up:= W =
Windoze /win'dohz/ n.
See Microsloth Windows.
Node:winged comments, Next:winkey, Previous:Windoze,
Up:= W =
winged comments n.
Comments set on the same line as code, as opposed to boxed
comments. In C, for example:
d = sqrt(x*x + y*y); /* distance from origin */
Generally these refer only to the action(s) taken on that line.
Node:winkey, Next:winnage, Previous:winged comments,
Up:= W =
(alt. `winkey face') See emoticon.
Node:winnage, Next:winner, Previous:winkey, Up:=
winnage /win'*j/ n.
The situation when a lossage is corrected, or when something is
Node:winner, Next:winnitude, Previous:winnage,
Up:= W =
1. n. An unexpectedly good situation, program, programmer, or person.
2. `real winner': Often sarcastic, but also used as high praise (see
also the note under user). "He's a real winner -- never reports
a bug till he can duplicate it and send in an example."
Node:winnitude, Next:Wintel, Previous:winner,
Up:= W =
winnitude /win'*-t[y]ood/ n.
The quality of winning (as opposed to winnage, which is the
result of winning). "Guess what? They tweaked the microcode and now
the LISP interpreter runs twice as fast as it used to." "That's really
great! Boy, what winnitude!" "Yup. I'll probably get a half-hour's
winnage on the next run of my program." Perhaps curiously, the obvious
antonym `lossitude' is rare.
Node:Wintel, Next:wired, Previous:winnitude, Up:=
Microsoft Windows plus Intel - the tacit alliance that dominated
desktop computing in the 1990s. Now (1999) possibly on the verge of
breaking up under pressure from Linux; see Lintel.
Node:wired, Next:wirehead, Previous:Wintel, Up:=
Node:wirehead, Next:wirewater, Previous:wired,
Up:= W =
wirehead /wi:r'hed/ n.
[prob. from SF slang for an electrical-brain-stimulation addict] 1. A
hardware hacker, especially one who concentrates on communications
hardware. 2. An expert in local-area networks. A wirehead can be a
network software wizard too, but will always have the ability to deal
with network hardware, down to the smallest component. Wireheads are
known for their ability to lash up an Ethernet terminator from spare
resistors, for example.
Node:wirewater, Next:wish list, Previous:wirehead,
Up:= W =
Syn. programming fluid. This melds the mainstream slang
adjective `wired' (stimulated, up, hyperactive) with `firewater';
however, it refers to caffeinacious rather than alcoholic beverages.
Node:wish list, Next:within delta of,
Previous:wirewater, Up:= W =
wish list n.
A list of desired features or bug fixes that probably won't get done
for a long time, usually because the person responsible for the code
is too busy or can't think of a clean way to do it. "OK, I'll add
automatic filename completion to the wish list for the new interface."
Compare tick-list features.
Node:within delta of, Next:within epsilon of,
Previous:wish list, Up:= W =
within delta of adj.
Node:within epsilon of, Next:wizard, Previous:within
delta of, Up:= W =
within epsilon of adj.
Node:wizard, Next:Wizard Book, Previous:within epsilon
of, Up:= W =
1. Transitively, a person who knows how a complex piece of software or
hardware works (that is, who groks it); esp. someone who can
find and fix bugs quickly in an emergency. Someone is a hacker
if he or she has general hacking ability, but is a wizard with respect
to something only if he or she has specific detailed knowledge of that
thing. A good hacker could become a wizard for something given the
time to study it. 2. The term `wizard' is also used intransitively of
someone who has extremely high-level hacking or problem-solving
ability. 3. A person who is permitted to do things forbidden to
ordinary people; one who has wheel privileges on a system. 4. A
Unix expert, esp. a Unix systems programmer. This usage is well enough
established that `Unix Wizard' is a recognized job title at some
corporations and to most headhunters. See guru, lord
high fixer. See also deep magic, heavy wizardry,
incantation, magic, mutter, rain dance,
voodoo programming, wave a dead chicken.
Node:Wizard Book, Next:wizard hat, Previous:wizard,
Up:= W =
Wizard Book n.
"Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs" (Hal Abelson,
Jerry Sussman and Julie Sussman; MIT Press, 1984, 1996; ISBN
0-262-01153-0), an excellent computer science text used in
introductory courses at MIT. So called because of the wizard on the
jacket. One of the bibles of the LISP/Scheme world. Also, less
commonly, known as the Purple Book.
Node:wizard hat, Next:wizard mode, Previous:Wizard Book,
Up:= W =
wizard hat n.
[also, after Terry Pratchett, `pointy hat'] Notional headgear worn by
whoever is the wizard in a particular context. The implication
is that it's a transferable role. "Talk to Alice, she's wearing the
TCP/IP wizard hat while Bob is on vacation." This metaphor is
sufficiently live that one may actually see hackers miming the act of
putting on, taking off, or transferring a phantom hat. Compare
Node:wizard mode, Next:wizardly, Previous:wizard hat,
Up:= W =
wizard mode n.
[from rogue] A special access mode of a program or system,
usually passworded, that permits some users godlike privileges.
Generally not used for operating systems themselves (`root mode' or
`wheel mode' would be used instead). This term is often used with
respect to games that have editable state.
Node:wizardly, Next:wok-on-the-wall, Previous:wizard
mode, Up:= W =
Pertaining to wizards. A wizardly feature is one that only a
wizard could understand or use properly.
Node:wok-on-the-wall, Next:womb box, Previous:wizardly,
Up:= W =
A small microwave dish antenna used for cross-campus private network
circuits, from the obvious resemblance between a microwave dish and
the Chinese culinary utensil.
Node:womb box, Next:WOMBAT, Previous:wok-on-the-wall,
Up:= W =
womb box n.
1. [TMRC] Storage space for equipment. 2. [proposed] A variety of
hard-shell equipment case with heavy interior padding and/or shaped
carrier cutouts in a foam-rubber matrix; mundanely called a `flight
case'. Used for delicate test equipment, electronics, and musical
Node:WOMBAT, Next:womble, Previous:womb box, Up:=
WOMBAT /wom'bat/ adj.
[acronym: Waste Of Money, Brains, And Time] Applied to problems which
are both profoundly uninteresting in themselves and unlikely to
benefit anyone interesting even if solved. Often used in fanciful
constructions such as `wrestling with a wombat'. See also
crawling horror, SMOP. Also note the rather different
usage as a metasyntactic variable in Commonwealth Hackish.
Users of the PDP-11 database program DATATRIEVE adopted the wombat as
their notional mascot; the program's help file responded to "HELP
WOMBAT" with factual information about Real World wombats.
Node:womble, Next:wonky, Previous:WOMBAT, Up:= W
[Unisys UK: from British animated characters] A user who has great
difficulty in communicating their requirements and/or in using the
resulting software. Extreme case of luser. An especially senior
or high-ranking womble is referred to as Great-Uncle Bulgaria.
Node:wonky, Next:woofer, Previous:womble, Up:= W
wonky /wong'kee/ adj.
[from Australian slang] Yet another approximate synonym for
broken. Specifically connotes a malfunction that produces
behavior seen as crazy, humorous, or amusingly perverse. "That was the
day the printer's font logic went wonky and everybody's listings came
out in Tengwar." Also in `wonked out'. See funky,
Node:woofer, Next:workaround, Previous:wonky,
Up:= W =
[University of Waterloo] Some varieties of wide paper for printers
have a perforation 8.5 inches from the left margin that allows the
excess on the right-hand side to be torn off when the print format is
80 columns or less wide. The right-hand excess may be called `woofer'.
This term (like tweeter) has been in use at Waterloo since
1972, but is elsewhere unknown. In audio jargon, the word refers to
the bass speaker(s) on a hi-fi.
Node:workaround, Next:working as designed,
Previous:woofer, Up:= W =
1. A temporary kluge used to bypass, mask, or otherwise avoid a
bug or misfeature in some system. Theoretically,
workarounds are always replaced by fixes; in practice,
customers often find themselves living with workarounds for long
periods of time. "The code died on NUL characters in the input, so I
fixed it to interpret them as spaces." "That's not a fix, that's a
workaround!" 2. A procedure to be employed by the user in order to do
what some currently non-working feature should do. Hypothetical
example: "Using META-F7 crashes the 4.43 build of Weemax, but
as a workaround you can type CTRL-R, then SHIFT-F5, and delete the
remaining cruft by hand."
Node:working as designed, Next:worm,
Previous:workaround, Up:= W =
working as designed adj.
[IBM] 1. In conformance to a wrong or inappropriate specification;
useful, but misdesigned. 2. Frequently used as a sardonic comment on a
program's utility. 3. Unfortunately also used as a bogus reason for
not accepting a criticism or suggestion. At IBM, this sense is
used in official documents! See BAD.
Node:worm, Next:wormhole, Previous:working as designed,
Up:= W =
[from `tapeworm' in John Brunner's novel "The Shockwave Rider", via
XEROX PARC] A program that propagates itself over a network,
reproducing itself as it goes. Compare virus. Nowadays the term
has negative connotations, as it is assumed that only crackers
write worms. Perhaps the best-known example was Robert T. Morris's
Great Worm of 1988, a `benign' one that got out of control and
hogged hundreds of Suns and VAXen across the U.S. See also
cracker, RTM, Trojan horse, ice.
Node:wormhole, Next:wound around the axle,
Previous:worm, Up:= W =
wormhole /werm'hohl/ n.
[from the `wormhole' singularities hypothesized in some versions of
General Relativity theory] 1. [n.,obs.] A location in a monitor which
contains the address of a routine, with the specific intent of making
it easy to substitute a different routine. This term is now
obsolescent; modern operating systems use clusters of wormholes
extensively (for modularization of I/O handling in particular, as in
the Unix device-driver organization) but the preferred techspeak for
these clusters is `device tables', `jump tables' or `capability
tables'. 2. [Amateur Packet Radio] A network path using a commercial
satellite link to join two or more amateur VHF networks. So called
because traffic routed through a wormhole leaves and re-enters the
amateur network over great distances with usually little clue in the
message routing header as to how it got from one relay to the other.
Compare gopher hole (sense 2).
Node:wound around the axle, Next:wrap around,
Previous:wormhole, Up:= W =
wound around the axle adj.
In an infinite loop. Often used by older computer types.
Node:wrap around, Next:write-only code, Previous:wound
around the axle, Up:= W =
wrap around vi.
(also n. `wraparound' and v. shorthand `wrap') 1. [techspeak] The
action of a counter that starts over at zero or at `minus infinity'
(see infinity) after its maximum value has been reached, and
continues incrementing, either because it is programmed to do so or
because of an overflow (as when a car's odometer starts over at 0). 2.
To change phase gradually and continuously by maintaining a
steady wake-sleep cycle somewhat longer than 24 hours, e.g., living
six long (28-hour) days in a week (or, equivalently, sleeping at the
rate of 10 microhertz). This sense is also called
Node:write-only code, Next:write-only language,
Previous:wrap around, Up:= W =
write-only code n.
[a play on `read-only memory'] Code so arcane, complex, or
ill-structured that it cannot be modified or even comprehended by
anyone but its author, and possibly not even by him/her. A Bad
Node:write-only language, Next:write-only memory,
Previous:write-only code, Up:= W =
write-only language n.
A language with syntax (or semantics) sufficiently dense and bizarre
that any routine of significant size is automatically
write-only code. A sobriquet applied occasionally to C and
often to APL, though INTERCAL and TECO certainly deserve
it more. See also Befunge.
Node:write-only memory, Next:Wrong Thing,
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write-only memory n.
The obvious antonym to `read-only memory'. Out of frustration with the
long and seemingly useless chain of approvals required of component
specifications, during which no actual checking seemed to occur, an
engineer at Signetics once created a specification for a write-only
memory and included it with a bunch of other specifications to be
approved. This inclusion came to the attention of Signetics
management only when regular customers started calling and
asking for pricing information. Signetics published a corrected
edition of the data book and requested the return of the `erroneous'
ones. Later, in 1972, Signetics bought a double-page spread in
"Electronics" magazine's April issue and used the spec as an April
Fools' Day joke. Instead of the more conventional characteristic
curves, the 25120 "fully encoded, 9046 x N, Random Access,
write-only-memory" data sheet included diagrams of "bit capacity vs.
Temp.", "Iff vs. Vff", "Number of pins remaining vs. number of socket
insertions", and "AQL vs. selling price". The 25120 required a 6.3 VAC
VFF supply, a +10V VCC, and VDD of 0V, +/- 2%.
Node:Wrong Thing, Next:wugga wugga, Previous:write-only
memory, Up:= W =
Wrong Thing n.
A design, action, or decision that is clearly incorrect or
inappropriate. Often capitalized; always emphasized in speech as if
capitalized. The opposite of the Right Thing; more generally,
anything that is not the Right Thing. In cases where `the good is the
enemy of the best', the merely good -- although good -- is
nevertheless the Wrong Thing. "In C, the default is for module-level
declarations to be visible everywhere, rather than just within the
module. This is clearly the Wrong Thing."
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Up:= W =
wugga wugga /wuh'g* wuh'g*/ n.
Imaginary sound that a computer program makes as it labors with a
tedious or difficult task.grind (sense 4).
Node:wumpus, Next:WYSIAYG, Previous:wugga wugga,
Up:= W =
wumpus /wuhm'p*s/ n.
The central monster (and, in many versions, the name) of a famous
family of very early computer games called "Hunt The Wumpus'. The
original was invented in 1970 (several years before ADVENT) by
Gregory Yob. The wumpus lived somewhere in a cave with the topology of
an dodecahedron's edge/vertex graph (later versions supported other
topologies, including an icosahedron and Möbius strip). The player
started somewhere at random in the cave with five `crooked arrows';
these could be shot through up to three connected rooms, and would
kill the wumpus on a hit (later versions introduced the wounded
wumpus, which got very angry). Unfortunately for players, the movement
necessary to map the maze was made hazardous not merely by the wumpus
(which would eat you if you stepped on him) but also by bottomless
pits and colonies of super bats that would pick you up and drop you at
a random location (later versions added `anaerobic termites' that ate
arrows, bat migrations, and earthquakes that randomly changed pit
This game appears to have been the first to use a non-random
graph-structured map (as opposed to a rectangular grid like the even
older Star Trek games). In this respect, as in the dungeon-like
setting and its terse, amusing messages, it prefigured ADVENT
and Zork and was directly ancestral to the latter (Zork
acknowledged this heritage by including a super-bat colony). A C
emulation of the original Basic game is available at the
Retrocomputing Museum, http://www.ccil.org/retro.
Node:WYSIAYG, Next:WYSIWYG, Previous:wumpus, Up:=
WYSIAYG /wiz'ee-ayg/ adj.
Describes a user interface under which "What You See Is All You Get";
an unhappy variant of WYSIWYG. Visual, `point-and-shoot'-style
interfaces tend to have easy initial learning curves, but also to lack
depth; they often frustrate advanced users who would be better served
by a command-style interface. When this happens, the frustrated user
has a WYSIAYG problem. This term is most often used of editors, word
processors, and document formatting programs. WYSIWYG `desktop
publishing' programs, for example, are a clear win for creating small
documents with lots of fonts and graphics in them, especially things
like newsletters and presentation slides. When typesetting book-length
manuscripts, on the other hand, scale changes the nature of the task;
one quickly runs into WYSIAYG limitations, and the increased power and
flexibility of a command-driven formatter like TeX or Unix's
troff becomes not just desirable but a necessity. Compare
Node:WYSIWYG, Next:X, Previous:WYSIAYG, Up:= W =
WYSIWYG /wiz'ee-wig/ adj.
[Traced to Flip Wilson's "Geraldine" character c.1970] Describes a
user interface under which "What You See Is What You Get", as opposed
to one that uses more-or-less obscure commands that do not result in
immediate visual feedback. True WYSIWYG in environments supporting
multiple fonts or graphics is a a rarely-attained ideal; there are
variants of this term to express real-world manifestations including
WYSIAWYG (What You See Is Almost What You Get) and WYSIMOLWYG (What
You See Is More or Less What You Get). All these can be mildly
derogatory, as they are often used to refer to dumbed-down
user-friendly interfaces targeted at non-programmers; a hacker
has no fear of obscure commands (compare WYSIAYG). On the other
hand, EMACS was one of the very first WYSIWYG editors,
replacing (actually, at first overlaying) the extremely obscure,
command-based TECO. See also WIMP environment. [Oddly
enough, WYSIWYG has already made it into the OED, in lower case yet.
Node:= X =, Next:= Y =, Previous:= W =, Up:The
= X =
* XEROX PARC:
Node:X, Next:XEROX PARC, Previous:WYSIWYG, Up:= X
X /X/ n.
1. Used in various speech and writing contexts (also in lowercase) in
roughly its algebraic sense of `unknown within a set defined by
context' (compare N). Thus, the abbreviation 680x0 stands for
68000, 68010, 68020, 68030, or 68040, and 80x86 stands for 80186,
80286, 80386, 80486, 80586 or 80686 (note that a Unix hacker might
write these as 680[0-6]0 and 80[1-6]86 or 680?0 and 80?86
respectively; see glob). 2. [after the name of an earlier
window system called `W'] An over-sized, over-featured,
over-engineered and incredibly over-complicated window system
developed at MIT and widely used on Unix systems.
Node:XEROX PARC, Next:XOFF, Previous:X, Up:= X =
XEROX PARC /zee'roks park'/ n.
The famed Palo Alto Research Center. For more than a decade, from the
early 1970s into the mid-1980s, PARC yielded an astonishing volume of
groundbreaking hardware and software innovations. The modern mice,
windows, and icons style of software interface was invented there. So
was the laser printer and the local-area network; and PARC's series of
D machines anticipated the powerful personal computers of the 1980s by
a decade. Sadly, the prophets at PARC were without honor in their own
company, so much so that it became a standard joke to describe PARC as
a place that specialized in developing brilliant ideas for everyone
The stunning shortsightedness and obtusity of XEROX's top-level
suits has been well anatomized in "Fumbling The Future: How
XEROX Invented, Then Ignored, the First Personal Computer" by Douglas
K. Smith and Robert C. Alexander (William Morrow & Co., 1988, ISBN
Node:XOFF, Next:XON, Previous:XEROX PARC, Up:= X
XOFF /X-of/ n.
Node:XON, Next:xor, Previous:XOFF, Up:= X =
XON /X-on/ n.
Node:xor, Next:xref, Previous:XON, Up:= X =
xor /X'or/, /kzor/ conj.
Exclusive or. `A xor B' means `A or B, but not both'. "I want to get
cherry pie xor a banana split." This derives from the technical use of
the term as a function on truth-values that is true if exactly one of
its two arguments is true.
Node:xref, Next:XXX, Previous:xor, Up:= X =
xref /X'ref/ v.,n.
Hackish standard abbreviation for `cross-reference'.
Node:XXX, Next:xyzzy, Previous:xref, Up:= X =
XXX /X-X-X/ n.
A marker that attention is needed. Commonly used in program comments
to indicate areas that are kluged up or need to be. Some hackers liken
`XXX' to the notional heavy-porn movie rating. Compare FIXME.
Node:xyzzy, Next:YA-, Previous:XXX, Up:= X =
xyzzy /X-Y-Z-Z-Y/, /X-Y-ziz'ee/, /ziz'ee/, or /ik-ziz'ee/ adj.
[from the ADVENT game] The canonical `magic word'. This comes
from ADVENT, in which the idea is to explore an underground
cave with many rooms and to collect the treasures you find there. If
you type `xyzzy' at the appropriate time, you can move instantly
between two otherwise distant points. If, therefore, you encounter
some bit of magic, you might remark on this quite succinctly by
saying simply "Xyzzy!" "Ordinarily you can't look at someone else's
screen if he has protected it, but if you type quadruple-bucky-clear
the system will let you do it anyway." "Xyzzy!" It's traditional for
xyzzy to be an Easter egg in games with text interfaces.
Xyzzy has actually been implemented as an undocumented no-op command
on several OSes; in Data General's AOS/VS, for example, it would
typically respond "Nothing happens", just as ADVENT did if the
magic was invoked at the wrong spot or before a player had performed
the action that enabled the word. In more recent 32-bit versions, by
the way, AOS/VS responds "Twice as much happens".
Early versions of the popular `minesweeper' game under Microsoft
Windows had a cheat mode triggered by the command
screen different colors depending on whether or not the cursor is over
a bomb. This feature temporarily diasappeared in Windows 98, but
reappeared in Windows 2000.
The following passage from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank
Baum, suggesting a possible pre-ADVENT origin, has recently come to
"Ziz-zy, zuz-zy, zik!" said Dorothy, who was now standing on both
feet. This ended the saying of the charm, and they heard a great
chattering and flapping of wings, as the band of Winged Monkeys flew
up to them.
The text can be viewed at
Another possible pre-ADVENT porigin is discussed at